India’s startup culture is evolving with a strong entrepreneurial trend, especially among the younger generation. However, a recent study by IBM found that 'more than 90% of startups in India fail in their first five years because of the lack of pioneering innovation (77%).'
The Drum spoke to Milind Deora, former minister of state with the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications within the government of India about how the country can elevate innovation and become known globally as a pioneer.
How important is digital to the future of the Indian economy?
Digital is absolute essential to any economy, India being no exception. In fact, India has the opportunity to leapfrog in many services both private and public using digital. For India the opportunities of embracing digital in some ways are far greater than it is in the developed world. For example: e-governance can transform governance in India using digital. That is an area we can leapfrog and improve our governance to the quality and levels of developed world also.
Have tech jobs that are linked to creative and media industries increased in India?
Yes, they clearly have increased, starting from the era of the digital boom over a decade ago. There are much more opportunities for people who are in the creative space, like those who are copywriters. Even in spaces like music, for example someone who is involved in music has more opportunities now than 15 years ago, so there are tremendous opportunities for people in the creative space.
What about investment in technology such as IOT, VR and AR – how has that changed and how important is that to India’s industries?
I think the investment in technology was earlier focused in private equity investments or largely focused around internet. But I know VR and AR have a lot of opportunities and scope in India. Even if not in creating product and intellectual property in India, we can definitely be an outsourcing hub of the world in VR and AR. I am very confident that this is an emerging area that Indian IT should focus on. Not just startups but even the established players like the Infosys of the world.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities being in the future for tech talent in India?
In India, we need a 'culture of innovation.' Indian companies like Infosys have failed to step up in terms of innovation which is why they have been at the mercy of automation/visa caps. The only innovation last seen was in the ecommerce industry with 'cash on demand' (COD). The companies that will move up the value chain only will benefit. Good examples of Indian companies that have moved up the value chain are InMobi and Prime Focus. The visa caps in US and Europe will not hurt these companies. Indian IT's solution lies in developing product capabilities in cloud, big data, SaaS, AI and VR/AR.
What are the challenges?
I believe that we are not innovating enough in technology. So far India has been dependent on a model of outsourcing labour arbitrage. For example, the ecommerce space is filled with companies that are imitating what is done overseas. We do need to innovate the way Alibaba innovated in China. There are some companies in India that are innovating, like Ola for example is obviously using Uber's model, but it is innovating. It started cash on delivery, which wasn't allowed by Uber. You could also book a cab by phone and not just an app. IT companies do need to innovate if they want to survive. We missed the cloud bus completely. Maybe, AR and VR are potential opportunities to catch up and artificial Intelligence still presents a lot of opportunities for India to be more innovative.